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It's lonely at the top, just how Angels like it

Angels pound Texas ace Kevin Millwood and rout Rangers, 9-4, to take sole possession of first place in AL West. Jered Weaver gets ninth win.

July 07, 2009|JIM PELTZ

After Texas Rangers ace Kevin Millwood wasn't selected for the American League All-Star team, one Texas writer bemoaned that it was "just not right" that the right-hander was overlooked.

But the Angels showed little sympathy for Millwood in Monday night's showdown between AL West co-leaders.

Propelled by Jeff Mathis' three-run home run, the league's leading offense pummeled Millwood early and often as the Angels rolled to a 9-4 victory over Texas in front of 35,691 at Angel Stadium.

An able showing by Angels starting pitcher Jered Weaver, along with sparkling defensive plays by Torii Hunter and Kendry Morales, also bolstered the Angels.

"We beat one of the best pitchers in the game; he should be in the All-Star game," Hunter said of Millwood (8-6), whose earned-run average rose from 2.80 to 3.34. "We were able to get some pitches we could handle. He got behind and had to throw strikes."

The win gave the Angels sole possession of first place, with Texas falling one game back, in the 81st game of the year -- the midpoint of the season.

The victory also gave the Angels an opening win in the three-game series with the Rangers, who had just completed a three-game sweep of the Tampa Bay Rays that gave them a five-game winning streak.

"Every game against these guys is going to be important from here on out," said Weaver, who earned his team-leading ninth win.

Mathis' blast, which brought home Juan Rivera and Morales, gave the Angels a 3-2 lead in the second inning, and they followed with two more runs in the third when Chone Figgins walked and Hunter, Vladimir Guerrero and Rivera hit consecutive singles.

Millwood "got me a couple of times with heaters in Texas," Mathis said. This time, he said, "I got one over the plate I could handle."

The Angels then piled on Millwood in the fifth inning with four more runs.

Figgins again walked and Bobby Abreu took a rare swing at a first pitch and singled to left field. Hunter singled to drive in Figgins, and Guerrero doubled down the left-field line to score Abreu.

Rivera hit another single to score Hunter and send Guerrero to third, and Guerrero tagged up and scored on Morales' fly ball.

By the time Millwood left the game after five innings, he had given up nine runs and nine hits.

Hunter also made a leaping catch against the center-field wall of Hank Blalock's fly ball in the fourth inning, and one out later first baseman Morales caught Nelson Cruz's foul pop-up, nearly falling into the Texas dugout.

The Rangers had won five of the teams' six previous meetings this season, but all those games were in Texas.

Monday's game began with Weaver appearing as though he might be the pitcher enduring a long night.

He gave up singles to Michael Young and Josh Hamilton in the first inning. Hamilton, the Rangers' star slugger, was playing his first game in more than a month after suffering a torn abdominal muscle.

Blalock then drove a single past Weaver's ear and into center field, scoring Young. And when the throw arrived at third base with Hamilton, it got past Figgins, allowing Hamilton to trot home with the Rangers' second run.

But Weaver settled down after that. "I came back to the dugout after the first," he said, "and knew I had to throw up some zeros against these guys to give us a chance."


Times staff writer Bill Brink contributed to this report.

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